Question: DJ Cochise, how did the Hip Hop/Rap Music Scene get started in Northeast Ohio? I've heard a lot of stories. Some of your homies that you personally taught how to dj or rap groups you've produced & promoted, won't even tell the truth or they try not to mention your name! Since it all started with you, how did it all begin?
Answer: You have to understand there is a whole story on how Hip Hop/Rap Clubstyle Music came to Northeast Ohio. It all began in the fall of 1979. I just stepped off the plane from Europe. I went to high school in Naples, Italy at Forrest Sherman High. I was heading to Kent State University on a track scholarship running the 200 meters, 400 meters and mile relay. I had a roommate named Enoch Brown from Brooklyn, New York and when I was trying to sing like Ray, Goodman and Brown, Cameo and Teddy Pendergrass, Enoch was rapping..."To the beat everybody and everybody to the beat". I was amazed!
My ambitions to be a dj began when I use to like this freshman girl and we were headin' to The Kent State Rathskellar (The Rat) to a party (It later became the center point of Rap for the state of Ohio and beyond). Anyways, I was in line with her and the dj came out and was flirtin' with her (He was the most popular person from Kent State since Arsenio Hall at that time). He walked her in and then told the guy at the door I wasn't old enough to get in startin' mess (you can see how she was). I wasn't happy, to say the least, but from that point on I wanted to dj and show him up one day taking it to the next level. I began learning all about rap from Enoch and listened to his mix tapes he brought from Brooklyn. I began making up raps and performing acappella in the Rotunda (a red carpeted area Kent Staters would hang out at in Tri Towers).
I began djing in 1979, in my room with the "3 in 1" systems as I use to call it. You know the turntable, radio and cassette deck all in one. I would mix music while using two of these systems turning up & down both volume controls simultaneously. I would put my headphones in the system that was turned down until it was on beat then turn it up and mix it in while turning down the other system. I had no pitch controls or fancy Technic 1200's at the time. I used my fingers and would speed it up and slow it down while mixing. This is how I djed parties at first as well. I became quite good at it.
Most of the time back then, I djed for free, I remember one time I got paid a whopping $15 for a party I did with the Sigma Gamma Rhos. I loved djing so much, I didn't care. It was a way for me to get back at that other dj and my ex-girl. I wanted to be the top dj at Kent State. Anyway, My frat brother, My Sands (that's what we refer to ourselves to the ones we pledged with), Jerry Thorpe asked me what I wanted to do at Kent State for fun. He was so thankful because I got him to pledge
Kappa Alpha Psi with me. He had a bigger track scholarship than I did, so he loaned me $600 to buy dj equipment. That was in May 1980.
I use to listen to a dj on the radio named Bud McFarlin on WDMT FM 108 Clubstyle Show. He would mix "Theme from the Black Hole & Knee Deep" by George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and I thought that was so amazing. He was the smoothest mixer while blending two records at that time and he became one of my dj mentors. The other dj I admired was Terry King aka "The Psychotic Nutt". I heard him play at the Happy Apple (downtown Cleveland) and The Host House. He was incredible. He didn't really blend music, but he talked a warehouse of sh*t. He had lights, the smoke machine and the boomin' system. He would talk so much cool sh*t during a party, I had to do it too. I developed the skills of a dj mixer as well as microphone master. I went to the Cleveland to find out where the record stores were located. I found out all the djs were going to two main record stores in Downtown Cleveland, Record Den (Scott was the manager) and Downtown Records (owned by Sol and ran by Matt Whitfield). There was also another record store called, Record Den, that was located downtown that helped the early hip hop movement a great deal. While at the clubs, hearing R&B all night long drove me nutz! I was buying records in a section in the corner of the stores called Rap with Groups like The Fearless Four, Ronnie G, The Treacherous Three, Spoonie G, Blow Fly and a lot of other Rap Artists no one ever heard of. You have to remember, Cleveland was an R&B city at that time, so Kent State played R&B at parties all night. The whole record was played and no mixing. One after another, all night long and to me this was boring.
I began djing parties at Kent State playing all rap music. I can remember my first gig was in the Student Center in a room called 204/206. I mixed one record after another, rap record after rap record, people were getting tired because they weren't use to dancing for 20-30 minutes straight, booing me, would walk out and leave. I couldn't believe people didn't like rap music because I was jammin', so I thought. I kept doing it anyway, weekend after weekend, party after party and everyone began to like it at Kent State. One day I was mixing and I was playing both records at the same time, one of the records started skipping, but it was still on beat some what. I thought wow, that sounded good. I began moving the record back and forth sometimes turning the volume up and down, so you couldn't here the back que of the record. All this began in May 1980. I also started dj parties in the Kent State Ballroom and a dusk 'til dawn spot called Oscar Ritchie Hall. It was actually one large classroom, but I could tell you stories!
In the spring of 1981, WDMT FM 108 (Dean Rufus) was having a HUGE dj battle "LIVE ON AIR" called "The Showdown"! The favorite to win was Bud McFarlin. You see, no one from Cleveland ever heard of me except those that went to Kent State. They took my mixtapes and talked me up to different cities when they went home on college breaks from places like New York City, Michigan, Overseas, Florida, West Coast, New Orleans, Chicago, many places and especially in Northeast Ohio. You know how it is, everyone is from everywhere at a large college university. It was time to leave for summer break and I was headin' back to Naples, Italy to see my immediate family. You see, I grew up as an Army Brat (even though I was born in Cleveland, I grew up like Shaquille Oneal and lived a little everywhere). I never entered the dj contest, but when I came back to Kent after the summer break to return for the fall semester of 1981, they were still advertising for djs to enter the dj battle. A friend of mine coerced me to go and buy a mixer from Radio Shack, so I could mix properly and enter the contest, so I did. I sent in my mixtape of all Rap music and waited and waited and waited and waited some more. I never got a call, but one day with only 2 days left before the contest was suppose to air on the radio, Dean Rufus (Program Director of FM 108 WDMT and host of The Clubstyle Show) called me and told me I was a finalist. He asked me where did I get the name Cochise. I told him I had gotten it while playing football and running track while in high school in Naples, Italy because I use to wear a bandanna. I wore it while running the 200 meters (I ran a 21.6 that day by the way, not bad huh?!?) one day and I was called Running Dear, Geronimo, Cochise...and Cochise stuck. So, when I got to Kent State, when asked what my name was, I said Cochise.
I was excited and took a few friends to the Radio Station with me (one of the people with me was Kevin D. Heard, of the Cleveland Call & Post, later becoming M.C. Chill of Fever Records), but it was My Sands, Billy Fields, that gave me that Nupie pep talk. He told me, "Cochise, no one can touch you. There is no dj doing the things you can do on the turntables and you rap too. Go get 'em Sands". It was September 5th, 1981 at 8:37pm the night of the dj battle. I was entering a dj contest with a new style of presenting music by mixing using turntables and rapping on the microphone. I was a DJ and M.C. rolled up into one. The favorites to win were Bud McFarlin or The Preacher Man. When it was my turn, Dean Rufus, asked me what was I doing on the audition mixtape I sent in for the contest. I didn't know what to say so I thought to my self for a sec' (let's see, I was swiping and mixing), so I blurted out, "Swipe 'n Mix". Which we say is scratching in the Rap World. No, I didn't start scratching. I'm not saying that at all. New York is where it started. I just didn't know it at the time. That's my style, "Swipe 'n Mix". Now I had 15 minutes to mix. Instead of playing 4 or 5 records in their entirety, I mixed about 30 songs and did a solo rap. So I claim, I'm the first rapper to perform on the radio in Northeast Ohio as well. The listeners went nutz! At that time, FM 108 was almost heard as far as Columbus, Ohio all the way to Toronto, Canada...so just make a big circle and that's who was listening. EVERYONE was listening! It was said over 1 million listeners were listening during the dj battle that day on September 5th, 1981...imagine that! It was a chance to be heard and to mix "live on the radio". It was one of the biggest thrills in my life! I had started a new era, a new craze and a different culture that influenced the entire state of Ohio and beyond! EVERY up and coming dj wanted me to either teach them or they studied my mixtapes & radio shows. That was a cool experience. I tried to teach as many djs my technique as possible. It was the time in the USA to take djing to another level.
Anyway, I played all rap music never heard before while swipe 'n mixin' and did a rap to the instrumental of "Funk You Up" by The Sequence. I won hands down, my VICTORY! I beat my idol, Bud McFarlin. Wow, what a head rush that was! I was awarded a 1st Place Plaque (you see pictured above) and a $200 gift certificate. Better yet, I had the title for the Best DJ of Northeast Ohio and the one who brought Rap music to Cleveland. This is the TRUE story of how Rap came to dominate The Northeast Ohio and surrounding areas. From that point on, Cochise became a household name in Northeast Ohio and beyond! I became a regular on the FM 108 Clubstyle Show. I use to hear stories of how Northeast Ohio and Canada came to a stop because of recording & listening to me "live" on the radio. To this day, I've introduced Classic songs that are still played in clubs like "Einsten" (I made up the dance that went with it....In...Out...In...Out) & "Yum Yum (Eat 'em Up)" by The Beat Box Boys, "Rapper Dapper Snapper" by Edwin Birdsong, "More Ounce" by Bobby Demo f/Roger Troutman, "Freedom in an Unfree World" by Hippie with Haircuts and a few more. I started a club "thing to do" called "Freeze - Defrost". Imagine while everyone was dancing...I'd yell out..."So, when I say Freeze, Pause and then...Defrost...now Freeze, huh...Defrost! When I said Freeze... everyone would stop dancing...and when I said Defrost...then they would proceed. I know what you're thinking. No, I started that. I've heard it used by major records saying "The Music and Loud Enough" and the whole nine yards. I even heard one Rap Group disguise it and call their track "Pause". I had given a demo to one of the executives. I ran into them at a lay over flight at the airport in Newark, NJ. I was flying back to Cleveland from Florida...from one of those "Jack-The-Rapper" Fish Fries. I always thought it was cool they used it. I would watch them on B.E.T. and M.T.V. It did bother me sometimes though, but no hard feelings. Anyways, Cleveland and Northeast Ohio know where it came from. Actually, I borrowed it from a Kappa Kane Step called Eastwood. In addition, I would start off every Radio Mix Show in the 80's with the intro to "Funk Funk" by Cameo:
Captain, the transporters ready.....
Needless to say, the dj service and mixtape/CD business took off!!! I then did shows sometimes accompanied by the Rap Group, Cochise and The Bomb Squad. You see, The Bomb Squad was Cleveland's first rap group. We hooked up at Kent State and I promoted and got them a lot of exposure. The first Rap Show in Cleveland was a bar/club called Burrel's off East 60th and Euclid Avenue. The spot is no longer there though. The first major Cochise party was at the Spectrum. Both places are on the Eastside of Cleveland, Ohio. I later had crews called Cochise & The Apache Crew, as well as Cochise & The Electric Crew. Everywhere I djed I sold out! I had gigs in throughout Northeast Ohio and the surrounding areas like The Kent State Rathskellar (The Rat) , Woodhill Park, Club Debos, Gordon Park, Club Candies, USA Skating Rink, Spectrum, Fat Glens, The USA Skating Rink, The Mad Hatter, Swingos at the Statler, The Plush, The Golden Gate Skating Rink, Club BedRocks, The Chic, The Delta Club, The 93.1 FM WZAK Anniversary Party with Roger Troutman & Zapp, The Mediterranean Party Center, The Chiefs Club, The Coliseum Party Center, The Forge, Smitties, Toucans, The Cotton Club, In The Cleveland Flats, The Crystal Room in Sandusky-OH, Red Carpet Lounge (Vel's), The Stardust, The Escape, The Subway, Harry O's - B&B's & The Double Time in Akron-Ohio, Deja Vu, Ohio State (clubs and the Block Party), Baldwin Wallace College, Edinboro State, Youngstown State, Cleveland State, Akron U and a lot of other colleges & cities. Keep in mind, I graduated from college, became a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and djed every weekend by the time I left Kent State. It took 5 years, but what a blast!!! To this day, when someone tells me they partied with me "back in the day" or still have one of my FM 108 Clubstyle Show recordings, it gives me chills. So when ANYONE asks you the story of the Northeast Ohio Hip Hop/Rap Scene, refer them to this page on my website. It's the TRUE Story of how it all began! Every Rapper and Hip Hop DJ that you've heard of from Northeast Ohio from the dates I've mentioned in this bio to the present day, came AFTER me..."that means all of them". No matter what you might here. I am the Godfather of the Northeast Ohio Hip Hop/Rap Scene....so that includes Cleveland and the rest of Ohio. I give much respect to ALL my homies that are in, that were and still in this Rap Game.
In 1986, I produced and performed one of the biggest radio played and best selling Rap songs of Cleveland's Rap History named "I'm Tellin' It all". It's a song that tells my story. I wrote it because I was pissed off at my rivals at the time. They all united one summer and decided to diss me. I went to a concert at The Front Row. Performing was NWA, Biz Markie, EPMD, Red Man and a few others. One Cleveland Rapper, Bango "The B-Boy Outlaw", in the show dogged me in front of everyone in his performance. He was the driver in the "Murder Was The Case" video by Snoop Dogg and was also on Ice T's Compilation Album of various artists. He did give a great show though...I give it to him. I had written a song that dogged ALL my rivals at one time and told the TRUE story of the "History of Rap in Northeast Ohio" in one hit record! What fun that was!
Some of the lyrics are:
"In Hollywood Heights, where I learned to deal,
That's Lee & Harvard, to 93rd and Woodhill.
These streets I walk, the boulevards I cruise,
All around Cleveland, Cochise does rule!
In the home of Rock 'n Roll, I've always rocked hardcore,
House parties, cabarets, discos and more.
Now Rap it came by via me, Cochise,
I schooled all my homies with R-A-P.
Cause it's a better way to turn than R&B,
Pop, Jazz, Country 'n Western gettin' flooded by these.
Since '79 and in overseas,
I've been knockin' down walls in every country".
To Listen to the long version of "I'm Tellin' it All": click here
Presently: I produce Groups, Underground Hip Hop & Dirty South Mix CDs, Old School R&B Mix CDs, Old School Rap CDs and Line Dance Greatest Hits CDs that have spread all over the globe. I continue to produce Mix CDs like Strictly For The Street, Strictly For The House Party, No Limit Bad Boy, Thuganomix 2000, Line Dance 2001, Line Dance 2000, Afterwork Mix at Six CDs, Back in The Day CDs and a host of others. I've had my own mix show on 93.1 FM WZAK "The Afterwork Mix At Six" thanks to Lynn Tolliver, Jr (Program Director) and Silver B. These gigs helped catapult me to the next era in the music biz. Every since then, I end a radio mix show, mixes, a party or whatever with..."It's Over..."! I also want to give a shout out to DJ Johnny O of
"Nerve DJ's". I taught him how to dj in his early days and he's become a Cleveland, OH legend doin' his thing.
My Mix CDs, Songs and MP3 Downloads on the internet are Club Dance tracks with different productions including Hip Hop and R&B, Reggae, House, Techno and Bass Music rockin' dance floors across the USA and Internationally. I still have my dj service and record label, so get in contact to book me for an event: click here I travel between Cleveland, OH and Atlanta, GA.
I want to personally thank all those that have supported me over the years. Through my up and down times, there are those that have been down with me from day one...through all the rumors, turmoil, the dissing and whatever else. If you've listened to me on the radio, played any of my songs & mixes, visited my website, gave me a shot to mix on-the-air, downloaded an MP3, came to one of my jams, hired me for a club or party or purchased a ring tone, CD, DVD, VHS or cassette tape...I thank you!
For Cochise Mix CDs, Line Dance CDs and DVDs
Thank you for all the support
to all the people down with me back in the day
and in the present
D J C O C H I S E
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